Category Archives: Public Opinion

Strict Orders of Secrecy – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 5

Mark 5:43 (NIV)
He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Prayer
Jesus, You never sought the limelight even though You are the most famous man to ever live. You healed the sick and raised the dead and commanded people to keep these miracles a secret. If I had done these things, I would have wanted to tell everyone, maybe even create a reality TV show about it. Full of humility, You sought a better glory than earthly fame.

May I realize that even when You break through and do something miraculous in my life, it is never about me. Even if divine power works miracles through my hands, I am never to seek my own glory. The only famous one for a true worshipper of Christ is God alone. You alone are worthy to receive all praise, honor and glory.

May I keep Your secrets so that Your kingdom mission will be accomplished. More than fame or kudos, You focused on doing the will of The Father. May I approach each day with the same dedication because I know that notoriety makes it difficult to stay on mission. Amen!

Advertisements

WWJD? – Would Jesus Burn a Koran?

Now that the Florida “pastor” has agreed to cancel his Koran burning ceremony this coming weekend, it may seem like old news. But I would like to comment on the idea that many “evangelicals” presented this controversial action as something Jesus just would not do. Although I am not Jesus’ publicist or the official PR spokesperson for God, I am a Christian and do know a thing or two about following Christ. For the record, I claim no divine direction on this matter or supernatural vision. But I would like to take a look at what Scripture recorded that Jesus did to see if burning a Koran is something that Jesus just might do.

Controversy…
Jesus loved to do controversial, almost disturbing things. Jesus was a prophet. And prophets tend to make bold, brash claims that fly in the face of the conventional wisdom. Jesus was no exception. He made divine claims about Himself, forgave sin (something only God was supposed to do according to Judaism), talked about the Temple being destroyed and resurrected in three days, and called the religious leaders of His day “a den of vipers.” Jesus further insulted some of the Jewish religious leaders saying that they were “sons of hell” who followed Satan as their father.

After Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown, the crowd got so angry that they moved to kill Him. And as most people know, Jesus made such a spectacle of things that the religious leaders incited the crowd and Roman authorities to seek Christ’s execution. So far, this is not the picture of man who was afraid to stir up controversy.

Even Jesus’ followers were not immune from criticism, He saved some of his “harshest” comments for His disciples. Remember that Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan, you have not the thoughts of God but the thoughts of man.”

Yet, Jesus did not seek to make controversy for controversy sake. He said that everything He did was led by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of God the Father. Christ claimed that His words served a higher purpose than self promotion or His own personal agenda.

Spotlight…
Jesus was not a camera hog. After some of His most unforgettable moments, Jesus told His followers to keep it a secret or avoid making a public spectacle out of what He did or said. Quite the opposite from call a press conference, Jesus would sneak away from crowds and avoid publicity. That is one major difference between the recent situation with the Florida pastor and Christ. Jesus didn’t perform for the cameras.

Pick the Right Battles…
Jesus waited for the right time to do everything. The Gospels present Jesus as a man who did everything with purpose – picking the right time and the right battles to fight. Jesus knew when to make a whip and clean out the Temple or stay away from the crowds and seclude from outside pressures. Jesus knew how to avoid confrontation with religious opponents as well as to turn around public arguments.

Jesus Didn’t Focus on the “Bad” Guys…
Jesus did not spend a lot of time talking about the “bad” guys or trying to fight them. Instead, Jesus focused on the message that He had been sent to preach and embody. He only talked about Satan or religious opponents when trying to setup the agenda or explain certain concepts to His followers. Even some of Christ’s most controversial statements came as teaching moments to correct wrongful thinking among His disciples. There may be no greater example of this then when Jesus talked about the Temple being destroyed. Imagine just how scandalous that would have been in Jesus’ day. He was responding to a comment by one of His disciples about the massive size of the stones around the Temple complex. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that God was building a new Temple inside the hearts of the faithful. Their focus should not have been on what was visible in the existing religious establishment.

Comparing Christ’s statement to today’s world, it might seem similar to a prophet touching the side of the U.S. Capitol building and saying it would soon collapse into a pile of rubble. Jesus spoke the truth – a harsh reality to prepare His followers for what was to come.

Wisdom…
Jesus called His followers to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” This suggests that Jesus wanted His people to be smart about how they lived. They had to use wisdom. Ask yourself, “Will this accomplish a greater, divine purpose?”

Thinking through all these aspects of Christ’s life, I don’t see Jesus as being a big fan of Koran burning. That would just give too much focus to the wrong place. It would embolden and provide a rallying cry for enemies abroad with no real benefit for the Kingdom of God. Jesus doesn’t need to win an ego contest with false religions.

I think Jesus would instead be like one of the missionaries who recently died for the Christian Gospel in Afghanistan. He would be willing to sacrifice to accomplish a greater good without caring if CNN were there to cover the event. But this doesn’t mean that Jesus’ enemies should think of Him as weak. Scripture is clear that when Jesus returns (whatever that looks like), He will come back as a conquering hero and the King of Kings.

Politics, Obama and Jesus

James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and a major evangelical leader, has criticized Sen. Barack Obama of distorting the Bible and taking a “fruitcake interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution. Dobson made these comments on his radio show. He focused on a speech that Obama gave in June to a liberal Christian organization.

Obama said it would be impractical to govern based solely on the Bible. He suggested that many of the people who tout the Bible have not read it or only pick and choose certain parts that support their ideology. I agree with Obama that Biblical illiteracy is a problem in this country, including many evangelicals. I also believe that leaders use the Bible to push their own agendas. This includes McCain, Obama, both political parties, Christian leaders, atheists, gurus, parents, TV personalities, authors, civic leaders, pastors, stand-up comedians, etc. 

“Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked in the speech. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?”

Dobson criticized Obama for referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament. 

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson said. While I do not personally agree with everything that Dobson says, he makes a good point about Obama taking things out of context. I believe that Obama in this speech does exactly what he accuses fundamentalists of doing. The Bible needs to be studied in context and totality. You have to understand that the Bible is the story of God and mankind as their relationship with each other is in flux. You have to ask what moment in redemptive history is being described in that passage in order to understand its present day implications.

Obama responded, “I do make the argument that it’s important for folks like myself, who think faith is important, that we try to translate some of our concerns into universal language so we can have open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us.”

I am all for universal language as long as the core truths are not lost in translation. Division seems to be something that has accompanied the true preaching of the Christian Gospel throughout time. Wherever the apostle Paul went, there was either a revolution or a riot. Jesus said that we should be willing to forsake all, including family for the Gospel. Jesus spoke about dividing families. He used harsh language and was more than willing to offend the religious leaders and politicians of the day. Avoiding divisive speech was not something that Jesus seemed too concerned with in His ministry. When it comes to division and culture, God was the one who confused the languages according to Genesis. He seems perfectly willing to let people become divided if pride leads them to elevate their will above His divine plan.

While I applaud Obama’s efforts to be a bridge builder, I don’t think you can effectively create a dialogue on religion and politics if you deny the importance of the Bible in shaping our culture, laws and history. Our laws and political system must have some basis. If the Bible is not a shaping force for those discussions, what should be the basis? Looking honestly at history, what were those shaping forces? Merely public opinion and consensus standards? Are there things that are universally wrong? Who defines those?

Many of the worst actions done by humans were somewhat popular at the time they occurred. At the very least, those atrocities were accepted by the masses to some degree. What does that say about merely basing laws on the reason of the age?

Laws change throughout time and are a mirror of societal values. Some of the greatest social changes came about because people took a stand based on their private faith. This includes Dr. Martin Luther King and William Wilberforce. 

In the United States, our laws are built on legal precedent as well as the pioneering effort by lawmakers and judges to advance necessary reforms. These changes adapt existing laws to an evolving political and social landscape. Would many of these changes have taken place if people refused to lead beyond the comfort levels of public opinion? Does the thought of God-given rights make necessary political change possible? These are important questions that need to be asked before we simply explain away the importance of the Bible with poor exegesis.   

Obama clarified to reporters, “I do suggest that the separation of church and state is important. But there’s no, no theological work being done in that speech in terms of the Bible.” You can’t pull out parts of Scripture to make your point and then claim you are not making a theological argument when someone calls you on its implications. I agree that a separation of church and state remains important to the preservation of each entity. At the same time, I think completely divorcing them goes too far and can easily become a serious suppression of religious freedom. 

Dobson criticized Obama for suggesting that religion in politics should be relegated to only things that can be embraced by the overwhelming majority of citizens. Obama’s view seems to elevate public opinion and reflect a belief in the overall decency of humanity. Scripture is quite clear that the human heart is wicked and capable of incredible evil. I think Obama’s argument puts too much faith in man and not enough in God. 

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values,” Obama said. “It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.”  Obama makes a good point here. Religious beliefs should be able to be defended by reason and logic. I am all for that process. We need to have more intellectual, thorough discussions and fewer sound bite reactions. I applaud Obama’s efforts to avoid rhetoric while I denounce his mischaracterization of fundamentalists at the same time. I believe he has effectively done both in his public comments.

Dobson said the suggestion is an attempt to lead by the “lowest common denominator of morality.” He asked, “Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?”

When it comes to abortion, I believe it comes down to your view on the sanctity of life and the beginning of life. If you believe that abortion is murder, I don’t understand how you could ever condone it except for the cases where you are talking about exchanging a life for a life. This has nothing to do with public or private morality if you hold my view on the issue. Others may have a different view. But that doesn’t negate the value of what I have to say. 

Dobson summed up the implications of Obama’s position. He said, “What Obama is trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.”

While I have no doubt of Obama’s sincerity and his personal claims to be a Christian, I do have concerns that his statements reflect a worldview that would make it difficult for Christians to have a fair say in the legislative process. And I believe he would appoint judges that would further limit the influence of the Bible at a time when we could use a little more Sermon on the Mount thinking.

Public Weighs In on God

A recent Pew survey survey on religion in America discovered that nearly three-quarters of respondents believe that faiths besides their own can lead to salvation. An overwhelming percentage of Americans (92%) believe in God or universal spirit. This survey shows that America remains a very religious nation even though we are becoming much more accepting of different faiths.

I believe this is the Oprahization of society. I define this as a state where we are hesitant to claim the superiority of any one particular religion or worldview. Some view this as progress. Others believe it undermines the strength that each faith gives to its followers.

What bothers me is that tolerance has been redefined. It has now become the acceptance of all things so that nobody feels slighted or opposed. The only real enemy to this worldview are the fundamentalists  – those who believe their religion has the monopoly on the truth.  That is why in the recent survey so many Americans hold beliefs that might contradict the doctrines of their professed faiths. I believe this either results from ignorance or the peer pressure to be “tolerant.” Do we fear public perception more than God?

According to the survey, 57% of American evangelicals agreed with the statement that many religions can lead to eternal life. These people claim to be devout followers even though they are open to the legitimacy of other faiths.

This make me wonder, “If you claim to accept everything, do you really believe anything?”

Read more about the survey from the following news stories. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/24/us/24religion.html?hp

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-me-faith24-2008jun24,0,4300244.story